The life of a professional baseball player is tough. With the season beginning at the start of April and running through September, players are forced to make baseball a way of life instead of just a hobby. The hours of travel and time spent around teammates in a clubhouse seem never-ending when the season comes to a close. The ups and down of a full year of baseball can bring tension to even the calmest athlete. But most players make sure not to let these things get in the way of having fun.
Fans hear of community visits, games, pranks and other ways that players enjoy their long season with one another. Some ballplayers follow a pre-game routine or make sure to wear a certain undershirt out of superstition. But what Redbirds infielder Greg Garcia has done has shaped the way his team and others in the St. Louis organization interact before every game.
Garcia, a seventh-round selection in 2010 out of the University of Hawaii, has recruited a majority of his fellow Redbirds to participate in something every player looks forward to: pre-game handshakes. And these hand-slapping, wing-flapping, chest-bumping moves have taken over the Redbirds’ dugout.
Originating in rookie-level Johnson City during the 2010 season, Garcia and then-teammate Travis Tartamella compiled a basic handshake that enlisted the whole team following a win. As the infielder progressed through the various levels of the Cardinals’ organization, so did the number of different routines. By 2012, when Garcia was stationed with the Springfield Cardinals in the Texas League, “everyone had a handshake with everyone.” It was something he made sure he carried over to Memphis during his first season with the Redbirds in 2013.
For the variety of handshakes that Garcia possesses, coming up with fresh material can be a challenge. It is something he relies on strange methods to produce.
“Usually the handshakes come to me in a dream so I see them before they happen,” Garcia jokingly said. “But honestly, guys will come up with ideas and run them by me. If I like the idea then we’ll go with it and if it works, it works.”
The second baseman prefers no particular order to perform the eight to nine pre-game handshakes. For him, it is whoever comes down off the field into the dugout from stretching first. Having no specific order helps keep Garcia on his toes, which he appreciates considering the depth and speed of each handshake.
“It’s like a dance routine honestly,” Garcia explained. “I just practice them enough that it becomes second nature to me. I see a guys face, just let my instincts go and the handshake comes out.”
Unfortunately, it is not always that simple. Garcia said that messing up a teammates’ individual handshake is “like stepping on a girls’ toes when dancing.” Forgetting a move can be embarrassing for both players involved, although the Redbirds’ leadoff hitter claims it to be rare.
Making a mistake is always in the back of his mind though and when he was promoted to St. Louis in May to make his Major League debut, Garcia was cautious about his pre-game routine.
“I only did it with Grich (referring to Randal Grichuk who was promoted to St. Louis at the same time as Garcia) when we were both there together,” Garcia hesitantly admitted, “but we did it in the corner where no one could see us. It wasn’t like it is here. I wasn’t as comfortable doing it up there.”
If fans get to the park early enough, they will witness a third base dugout full of players partaking in what has become series business. Garcia has enough handshakes with his Memphis teammates to fill a starting lineup. Of those recruited, Redbirds’ catcher Ed Easley confessed their handshake gets him ready for every game.
“I know when Greg comes to me for our handshake, it’s time to lock it in,” Easley stated.
When it comes down to it, Garcia’s easy-going attitude has translated something as simple as a handshake into a staple within the Redbirds’ clubhouse
“It’s just something we do to keep the clubhouse light and fun before the game and it kind of bonds you a little bit with the other guys,” Garcia said.
Xavier Scruggs (@Xavier_Scruggs) was drafted by St. Louis in 2008 out of UNLV and is in the midst of his seventh professional season. He grew up in California and attended Poway High School in San Diego. The infielder spent the past two seasons with the Cardinals’ Double-A affiliate, the Springfield Cardinals, where he is the all-time career home runs leader with 59.
“A few years ago I was blogging for Scout.com and had a great time doing it,” Scruggs said. “I wrote about winter ball and my season in Springfield. When the Redbirds Media team approached me about blogging, I immediately thought about how awesome it would be to give fans an inside look on a player’s thoughts and everyday experiences.”
The 2014 season is here and underway and I couldn’t be more excited about this year’s Memphis Redbirds team. It is another season to show improvement, strive for your dreams and to grind all 140 games. Triple A is a new experience for me.
I have never been to Memphis but I have heard so much about it. The first day we arrived I couldn’t help but be in awe of such an awesome stadium. I stared at the field just thinking how AutoZone Park will be my new playground for the next 6 months. It was three days before the season started but I already wanted to be on the field. I was visualizing myself in the batter’s box and hitting one over the fence. Redbirds fans showed up for one of our first practices and it only emphasized how awesome it is to have so many people that support you.
Needless to say I am very blessed to be here. Every day I remind myself to not take this for granted. When I think about it, all I’m really doing is playing the sport I have loved to play since I was five years old. What makes it even more special is that every year I get to play in front of so many Cardinal fans that truly love the game as much as I do. For that I will be forever thankful grateful.
There are two things that I have always associated with Memphis and I’m sure it is probably the same for others who aren’t from here: music and food. People warned me about the food here in Memphis. They told me there is a good chance I could get fat with all the wonderful food here in this city. It’s such a shame that all the hard work I put into shedding pounds this offseason will be put to waste with places like Rendezvous, Central BBQ, Gus’s, Blue Plate Cafe and Germantown Commissary surrounding me. I’m not complaining though because being from California it’s not too often I get options like this.
My first thought about the upcoming season is that we have a very talented team. It is not every day that a team has such a remarkable outstanding core of guys. I’m positive that our team will do very well this year. True baseball fans know that a team only goes as far as their pitching will take them. With that being said we could definitely lose pitchers to the big league team if they are pitching well. Actually that could be said for both position players and pitchers. That is one thing that I will have to get used to more of this year, seeing players get promoted to the big leagues. That’s the most exciting part though, knowing that you are only one step away from being in ‘the show’. That’s all the motivation I need.
I’m happy to call Memphis my new home for a little while, but hopefully not for too long because I would love to check out St. Louis as well. More blogging to come very soon, but for now you can find more of my thoughts on Twitter. Until next time!
April 7, 2013 – Michael Wacha made his Memphis debut and Brock Peterson hit his first home run of the season on the way to leading the PCL in homers. The then-21-year-old went 4.0 innings and surrendered two earned runs on 5 hits. The right-hander went on to appear in 15 games with Memphis in total, this being the only outing he did not record a strikeout during his tenure in Memphis. Wacha would end up finishing 5-3 with the Redbirds before being called up to St. Louis where he had a postseason for the record books. For Peterson, his 11th-inning home run was not enough to win the game against Oklahoma City in the 14-10 loss. The power-hitting first baseman did go on to hit 25 long balls in total though, tied for 8th in Redbirds’ history for a single-season.
Opening Day has become one of the best afternoons of the entire baseball season. Every team has a renewed outlook at the season. Every player starts with a perfect average. Every ball club begins in first place.
The grand spectacle that is Opening Day gets every player excited, and when players are excited, they take to Twitter to make sure the whole world knows they are. Both former and current Redbirds made their thoughts known yesterday.
Matt Carpenter, who signed an off-season contract extension to remain with St. Louis through the 2019 season, was ready to go yesterday.
It's here… #OpeningDay
— Matt Carpenter (@MattCarp13) March 31, 2014
Kolten Wong reached base twice yesterday against Cincinnati, including a beautiful bunt single.
It's finally here… Opening day!!! Lets get it going #CardinalNation
— Kolten Wong (@KoltenWong) March 31, 2014
Cardinals beat writer Derrick Goold experienced Opening Day in Cincinnati, where there was a parade through the streets in celebration of another season.
— Derrick Goold (@dgoold) March 31, 2014
Every team has that funny guy. Joe Kelly fits the role perfectly with St. Louis.
I feel like I have something to do today
— Joseph Kelly Jr. (@JosephKellyJr) March 31, 2014
Trevor Rosenthal, who notched his first save of the season yesterday with a perfect ninth inning, hanging out with Kelly and outfielder Peter Boujos before the opener. Bourjos turned 27 yesterday.
— Trevor Rosenthal (@TrevRosenthal) March 31, 2014
When Kevin Siegrist tweets, you know something is a big deal.
Now we go. #OpeningDay
— Kevin Siegrist (@KevinSiegrist) March 31, 2014
Adam Wainwright received a lot of deserved praise yesterday after notching his 100th career win.
Congrats to Waino tonight, 100th Career Win! #nasty
— Shelby C Miller (@ShelbyMiller19) March 31, 2014
Xavier Scruggs may have said it best.
Nothing better than baseball being back!
— Xavier Scruggs (@Xavier_Scruggs) April 1, 2014
The Redbirds open their season on the road this Thursday, April 3, at Iowa. They then begin the 15th season inside AutoZone Park the following Friday, April 11, at 7:05 pm against Iowa. If you have not already, grab tickets to the opening series and we hope to see you around the park soon!
The Battle of the Birds exhibition game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Memphis Redbirds is one short week away! The first pitch is scheduled for 6:35 pm, with gates opening two hours prior so fans can fully appreciate the spectacle and take in batting practice. For fans who have not secured their admission yet, new VIP ticket options were released today. The VIP ticket options are available for purchase exclusively over the phone by calling (901) 722-0257. Fans will not want to miss their chance at this last-minute opportunity. More information can be found here. We can not wait to see you in a week and celebrate AutoZone Park’s 15th anniversary!
Since the last post about predictions for the Redbirds roster concerning the 2014 season, St. Louis has optioned five players to minor league camp. A majority of moves have featured more pitchers than position players. It is pitching that remains one of the strongholds in the St. Louis system though and entering the season, things are panning out well.
The starting rotation in Memphis should see a few newcomers in Tim Cooney and Angel Castro, with Zach Petrick (pictured above) having an outside chance. Both Cooney and Petrick had successful 2013 campaigns, as the tandem finished as teammates at Double-A Springfield. Cooney led all St. Louis minor league players in strikeouts (148) and was tied for the top spot in wins (10). Petrick was right behind Cooney in strikeouts (122), finishing third, but bested all others in ERA (1.99). He also earned the St. Louis Cardinals Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award after the season. The pair as a whole have tremendous upside entering only their third professional seasons. If one of them is optioned to start with Double-A, then expect Boone Whiting to fill their spot. Castro was signed in the offseason after spending 2013 with Triple-A Albuquerque in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ organization. He started 19 games and recorded a 3.48 ERA in 116.1 innings of work. The Dominican Republic-native will be expected to log important innings for Memphis.
Tyler Lyons (pictured above) and Scott McGregor are projected to fill the final two spots in the rotation. Lyons made his Major League debut in 2013 pitching 53 innings with a 4.75 ERA. If the big league club has any injuries in the starting personnel, Lyons will more than likely be the first to see action with St. Louis again. McGregor, the pitcher who tied Cooney with 10 wins last season, started eight games with Springfield and 17 with Memphis. While his combined ERA landed at 4.06 in 2013, McGregor will look to improve in his first full season at Triple-A.
The St. Louis bullpen does have some questions, which poses uncertainty to trickle down to Memphis. Things should sort out once a few players return from injuries though. With Jaime Garcia going down at the opening of spring training and Jason Motte not appearing to be at full health, it keeps the door open for either Joe Kelly or Carlos Martinez to plug the gap in the starting rotation and the other to fill a bullpen spot. That still leaves one spot in the bullpen though which some see Keith Butler filling. Butler, who made his debut with the Cardinals in 2013, would likely remain with St. Louis until Motte can make a return. The rest of the projected relievers in Memphis are familiar to most.
Sam Freeman (pictured above), Lee Stoppelman, Jorge Rondon, Eric Fornataro, and Nick Greenwood are foreseen as finding their way to Triple-A. Stoppelman saw three games with Memphis in 2013, his first time above the Double-A level. He showed poise last season, posting a 1.50 ERA in 55 games combined between three levels. Rondon had a good season as a Redbird in 2013 (51 G, 3.06 ERA), while Greenwood and Fornataro seek to bounce back from tough campaigns. Finally, after hurling a franchise-record 25.2 consecutive shutout innings by a reliever, Freeman found success in both Memphis and St. Louis. The lefty was 7-2 with a 2.97 ERA at Triple-A and 1-0 with a 2.19 ERA in St. Louis. If the St. Louis bullpen did not already have two lefties locked into it, Freeman would probably be on the Opening Day roster for the Cardinals, although he does still have a chance if St. Louis does not mind having three left-handers. The last spot in the Memphis ‘pen, an opening most thought Jose Almarante would fill before getting stuck in the Dominican with visa issues, seems to be a wait-and-see issue. If the Cardinals are looking internally to fill the void, it could be Heath Wyatt, simply because of the solid year he put together in 2013 between Advanced-A Palm Beach and Springfield. However, they do have a few players that could wind up on the trade block and provide them with another arm.
With the moves yesterday, St. Louis is down to 34 roster players and seven non-roster invitees left in Major League camp. The key to pitching is keeping arms healthy, which is what the organization is focusing on heading into Opening Day.
The Memphis Redbirds announced today that individual tickets for the 2014 regular season and the St. Louis Cardinals Exhibition Game will go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 15th.
Check out the Redbirds’ website for more details.
After an eight-game road trip to begin the 2014 regular season campaign, the Redbirds will celebrate AutoZone Park’s 15th Anniversary season beginning with a 7:05 p.m. home opener on Friday, April 11th against the Iowa Cubs (Triple-A Cubs).
Word got out quickly on Wednesday after Rick Ankiel announced he was retiring during the St. Louis Cardinals’ broadcast of their game between the Miami Marlins. With the proclamation, the former 1997 second round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals closed the book on an up-and-down, unique playing career.
Ankiel opened his professional career at Single-A Peoria of the Midwest League in 1998. He advanced through two levels in 1999. He was then rated the #1 top prospect in the minor leagues before the 2000 season, and after a dazzling performance on the mound, Ankiel found himself on the St. Louis roster for the first time in his career. The hard-throwing left-hander became an 11-game winner over 30 starts. He concluded the year with a 3.50 ERA in 175 innings. It would be his only good season as a pitcher, as most know the story of the wheels falling off for Ankiel. The inability to throw strikes forced him to turn his attention to the outfield, where he would adequately survive over seven more seasons with five different big league clubs.
The now-34-year old veteran saw parts of four seasons in Memphis (’99, ’01, ’04, ‘07). As a pitcher with the Redbirds, the southpaw ended with a combined 8-5 record and a 3.76 ERA, even being named the Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year in 1999. Even during his best season as a pitcher at Triple-A, the potential as a full-time hitter always seemed to be with Ankiel, when he went 6-for-21 with two doubles and four RBIs in ’99. Records say he would not log an at-bat with Memphis again until 2007, when he hit .267 with 32 home runs and 89 RBIs. Those stats warranted a call-up from St. Louis, finishing the year by playing 47 games with the Cardinals and driving in 39 more runners.
That 2007 season with Memphis was one for the books though. He led the team in total bases, (221), home runs and RBIs. He holds three single-game Redbird records, two of which he earned in one game during the ’07 season. He is tied with three other players after hitting three home runs on June 16th against Iowa. Ankiel ended up with 13 total bases that game after adding a single to his 4-for-5, three-RBI game, which still stands as the record in that category. The outfielder paired a .314 on-base percentage with a .568 slugging percentage, a career-high between both the majors and minors. He had the highest HR/AB ratio in the Pacific Coast League that year, a mark that stood at 1/12.16. There were 13 different games when Ankiel recorded three or more RBIs. He hit home runs in back-to-back games seven different times, even going yard in four consecutive contests from July 3rd to the 7th. The strong arm he used to pitch with came into play during his time split between right and center fields. While he committed seven errors in 238 chances, Ankiel posted eight outfield assists and started three double plays. Adding to all of that, the then-27-year old swiped four bases in seven chances. He was named a starting outfielder at the Triple-A All-Star Game and awarded a Post-Season All-Star selection from the Pacific Coast League. His promotion to St. Louis on August 9th was well warranted. Ankiel would go on to play two more seasons with the Cardinals in ’08 and ’09 before moving elsewhere.
For me, Ankiel was someone I thought had it all together. I knew he could throw hard and that he was considered to be good. When he tried to make the conversion from pitcher to outfielder, I gave up on him for a little while. That 2007 season in Memphis would go on to springboard him into a respected all-around outfielder. I will always have two memories regarding him. The first was when I had gotten two of the same rookie cards of him in one baseball pack. I remember being the hot trader on the block with that extra card. The other is actually baseball related and it came when I was glued to the television as the Cardinals were in the midst of a six-game road swing during the 2008 season. It was a beautiful May night in Colorado and Ankiel was manning center field for St. Louis. In what I still consider to be two of the greatest throws from the outfield, Ankiel recorded two assists by gunning the ball with pinpoint accuracy to third base. When he nailed the runner at third for his second assist in eight innings, I was cheering so loud my mom had to tell me to settle down. (Enjoy)
Rick Ankiel was a talented man. Having success after switching from a top pitcher to outfielder will rarely, if ever, happen in the way that Ankiel made it happen. As he continues his life past a playing career, I wish him all the best and give thanks for the memories he provided me with growing up.
Tim Cooney, recently ranked as the No. 6 top prospect in the St. Louis organization by Baseball America, has apparently been impressing many people in a short amount of time. Receiving a non-roster invite to Cardinals Spring Training, the former Wake Forest hurler is coming off a terrific 2013 campaign. The southpaw was named a Texas League Mid-Season All-Star, back-to-back Texas League Pitcher of the Week winner, and finished first in the entire St. Louis organization with 148 strikeouts in 2013. Entering his third professional season, Cooney still has yet to allow more than two walks in a single outing. There is a lot of excitement and potential surrounding the young pitcher, as he looks to bust out in 2014.
Read more here.
Trying to find the best bang for your buck? Look no further than the Grand Slam 4-Pack! The pack includes the Battle of the Birds exhibition game, two firework nights and a Top Prospect Bobblehead Giveaway. More information can be found here.
The exhibition game is 32 days away and the Redbirds opener at AutoZone Park is in 46 days! Get your tickets now!